Writing the unwritten rules of online gaming

This is a repost of an article I first wrote around 4 years ago, for a personal blog. I’ve taken a look over it, but a lot of it is as applicable then as it is now!


We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying yourself with some online play, be it on the PC, PSN or over XBox Live, and all of a sudden something happens that ruins it all. It can be anything, but invariably it’s the actions of another player rather than the action of the game itself.

You see the problem is that different people have differing opinions on what is acceptable and what isn’t. It all comes down to etiquette, and the biggest problem is that, with online gaming, there are no hard and fast rules. What few rules there are appear to be unwritten, and therefore some people don’t know about them.

The idea for this article came from a guy I used to work with. He’d identified business benefits by writing down the unwritten rules of the department in which he worked. As everyone could then see everything about the way they did business, everyone could work in the same direction. Now I’m not saying that writing down these rules will make online gaming even more fun. However, if everyone could stick to these simple guidelines then I can imagine online gaming becoming far less frustrating. So here they are:

Don’t disconnect

It’s not big and it certainly ain’t clever. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting together an awesome performance against a player who is undoubtedly better than you. You’re just about to pull off a memorable win, and all of a sudden you have no opposition. Rather than sully their online record, the other player has quit so that you don’t score a victory over them. Very annoying, very childish and an easy way to find yourself on my blocked list.

No shouting

Seriously, what makes you think that I want to listen to you shouting random words down a microphone at me? Or singing for that matter. Or humming. Or telling your wife what you want when she goes to Taco Bell? If I really wanted to know that I’d of asked (as well as asking you to get some for me). So remember that there is a mute button on virtually every headset I’ve seen, flick the switch, do what you gotta do, and then come back to the game.

Remember what you’re playing

I agree that certain in-game tactics are annoying (I’ve recently witnessed a spawn-camper in an fps get booted from the game for that) but seriously people have some focus. Shouting at me because I’ve just crashed my car into your car on Burnout is ridiculous. Would you shout at the console if you were playing offline? Thought not! Also, if I’m in a player match on my XBox and you call me a “****ing noob” then you’re gonna get blacklisted. Everyone starts somewhere, and if you want people with high skill levels then go to the Ranked matches.

“Language, Timothy”

Why is it almost always the 12 year olds (ok so I’m stereotyping here) who fall foul of this one? I remember one particular occasion playing an online racing game. I was in second and not too far behind the guy in front of me who had been silent all race. Coming up to the last corner and he completely missed the racing line, slammed into the barrier, and left a nice gap for me to slip past and claim victory. Was he annoyed with himself? Nope. He decided instead that the appropriate course of action was to yell at me “you ****ing ****ing ****-****. You could have ****ing well let me ****ing win”. Priceless. Another member of the blacklist club!

Be a good loser, and a good winner

There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing. Lets face it, a minimum of half the people online at any one time are about to lose. So be gracious about it (see “Language, Timothy”). However that goes for winning too. If you can’t be gracious about winning and thank someone for a good game, then don’t expect not to be taunted even more when you get beaten by them.

Camping vs. Role-playing

Ah my personal favourite. I fall-foul of this one all of the time. There are times when camping is just plain wrong. Camping a spawn point so that none of the opposition team can ever re-spawn is stupid. That doesn’t make for a game! However, finding a strategic point in a map which was put there intentionally, and using a sniper rifle to good effect. Well where is the harm in that? That’s what the level was set up for. If you want to take me out then come and get me, don’t just take the hump and abuse me for it!

Have fun

Whilst not necessarily etiquette it’s probably the most important thing of playing online. Everyone is there to have fun, so don’t try and ruin it for them. Sure there are some instances where things are very, very serious online. But remember when your game isn’t that serious, kick-back, and enjoy what should be an awesomely fun experience.

So this list isn’t exhaustive as to the should and should-nots of online gaming, but they are the biggest annoyances that most people suffer from. At the end of the day, if you’re in any doubt about the way you’re behaving, think how annoying it would be if someone was acting like that towards you. And remember, with the inclusion of blacklists, you may find yourself with no-one left to play with!


Written by: Graeme Smith

1 Comment Added

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  1. Scott Watson 21st February 2014 | Reply

    Superb piece mate and one everyone should take to heart playing online multiplayer. I have a habit of keeping communications in-game with my party only for some of the exact reasons you’ve mentioned above. I also have a tendency to get over excited in game and shout lots so only subjecting my friends to it means no one else has to suffer 🙂

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